As if flying with kids isn't difficult enough, thinking about dragging their bulky car seat to the airport can be daunting. There's a big push to require car seats on planes, but many people still choose to go without, and rent a car seat from a car rental at their destination.
But there is danger in trusting that a car seat from a rental place is safe. In fact, there have been stories that reveal frightening facts that would make you never, ever trust one again.
One important thing to consider is that you have no idea how the seat has been treated. And in speaking to friends who have traveled and asked the manager of the car rental about the car seats, it seems even the managers of the rental places have no idea. It could have been in a crash, there might be broken pieces that someone rigged to make work. A child might have peed in the seat and they threw the harness straps into the washing machine and dryer (huge no-no). There is also a good chance you won't have a manual and since each seat is different, you can only guess on proper installation.
10News covered one mom's experience getting a car seat from Advantage Rent-a-Car, which had a back room full of dirty, disgusting, crumb-filled, and black-market seats missing vital pieces or very out-of-date. The mom, Debbie Dubrow, was versed in car seat safety and was appalled by what she saw. If a car seat is never cleaned after a child pukes, pees, spills juice or food, the likelihood of a seat having nasty bacteria and mold is very high. And dangerous. Dubrow showed off pictures of some of the seats as well.
After her article and her pictures, someone pointed out to her the "safer looking" seat they'd finally chosen was a Fisher Price T-Shield seat that at the time was between 12 and 22 years old. Car seats generally expire after 6 to 8 years, but seats back then only lasted for 5 to 6 years at the very most before the straps and shell would deteriorate from UV rays from sun and fluctuations between heat and cold. In an accident, it's likely the seat would have broken and the harnesses snapped. Expired seats are very dangerous, and that's even if they're treated very WELL, which rental seats are NOT.
Next time you go on a trip, I would recommend that you take your car seat. Even though some companies like the Advantage that Dubrow visited have upgraded their standards, it's still not enough to make the seats safe. It's a huge gamble. You'd do anything to save your child's life right? Jump in front of a bullet, push them out of the way of a car? Well here you need to make an effort too, and take your own seat that you bought brand new. It may be a pain, but your child's life is so much more important.
Do you trust rental car seats?
Image courtesy of Jennifer of Sippy Cups in my Couture